Thomas Aird

Fitte The First

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Sing, woodland Muse, Frank Sylvan, brave old buck!
In nankeens, he, white stockings, waistcoat white,
Green coat, and linen of the amplest cut,
White as the snow, tied by a ribbon black
Around the swelling apple of his throat,
While broad of brim a white hat tops the man,
Forth sallies, white-haired, rosy cock of health,
To meet old Winter on the morning hill.
Hail, let it drive, he cares not—be it caught
Even in the thickets of his eyebrows shag,
There let it melt at leisure; he disdains
To raise his gloveless hand to brush away
The sleet that sparkles on his glowing cheek:
'Tis but refreshment. Lifting up his face,
With nostrils broad and large, the vigorous hairs
Down growing thence, he snuffs the Norland blast,
Clear, fresh, and free, rejoicing in the cold.

But more he loves, when on a gurly morn
The surly wind has roused the curly deep,
And o'er the Eastern height he smells the sea,
To take the headland bluff: seaward he stands,
Sniffing the salt white spray, his own bluff face
All red and pickled with the German brine.

Loose, large, and flowing to his convex point,
Our hero's ruffles, lo! they bear a brooch,
Fast by his heart, with Charles the Martyr's hair.
An ancestor of Frank's fought well for Charles
Through all his wars; and, on that eve of doom,
Kneeling he wept upon his Sovereign's knee:
The meek King called his child Elizabeth,
And made the Princess with her scissors cut
A small lock from his neck:—“Be it to thee,
My friend and brother, a memorial slight,
But best in its simplicity to one
Pure of self-seeking—a memorial slight
Of all that thou hast done for England's crown,
And this poor family.” Thus the Martyr said,
Giving that token. And his servant took,
Kissed the gray hair, and pressed it to his heart.
A stout heart wears it still, a loyal heart and true.

A jolly bachelor Frank, in Sylvan Lodge,
Bosomed in woods, he keeps his easy state:
A squire of good broad acres, his old house
Is strong of beef, brown bread, and home-brewed ale;
And at his buttery-hatch the wandering poor
Are aye regaled, and sent upon their way.
His country life has kept his salient points
Unblunted, red his cheek and fresh his heart;
While rambles far through wild peculiar tribes
Have made him largely tolerant, and lent
A humorous twinkle to his keen gray eye.
All picturesque varieties of man,
All oddities of being, starting out
In bold relief from life's strange canvas, find
Grace in his eyes; but wo to them that dare
Abuse discretion, for like any lynx
He looks them through and through, and, hot of blood,
Snorts in his ire, and drives them from his gate—
His gate still open to the modest poor!

For, generous as himself, his little niece,
Who rules his house with many opening keys,
Bears out his heart and hand—“Brown Molly” she
From her complexion; but her clear brown face
Was cut with Beauty's chisel, clean and fine
In every feature; fairy-like, her form
Is grace itself; but oh her true young heart
Is more than beauty, and is more than grace.

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Thomas Aird